A Megalodon shark hanging in the San Diego Natural History Museum lobby. Largest extinct type of shark to have existed even before dinosaurs.
Kids were terrified (me a little startled) to look directly at this shark’s enormous face with its sharp teeth and menacing stare. Although they avoided looking at it, they insisted that I take a picture of it. Every time they were in line of vision with the shark, I had to cover their eyes or they accused me of being a mean mom.
While I was writing this post, kids saw a glimpse of this shark and immediately they cried.
From past experiences, I learned that waiting for depression to go away on its own doesn’t happen. If left neglected, it gets worse over time. After a sleepless night, I called the doctor’s office and made an appointment for that afternoon. The kids came with me; while I spoke to the doctor, they sat outside the office door eating snacks and playing on their tablets.
Having depression is not obvious: appearances and demeanor can be misleading. To others you seem to be doing okay externally; you’re smiling, functioning, and not visibly in pain. Talking about it is not easy: it’s not the best conversation starter and there is always the lingering fear that people will not like you or avoid you because of it.
“You are so brave and quiet. I forget you’re suffering.”
I tell myself that everyone gets depressed at one time or another, but does that mean I need to see a doctor about it? I don’t feel like my usual self, but is it bad enough to take medication? How can you differentiate between regular sadness or something more? Isn’t it reasonable to feel this bad after all that’s happened recently? BUT I don’t have time for this; get over it will you!!, I tell myself.
I wonder why I need to justify it to myself or someone else. It doesn’t need to be a confession (wise words from a professor referring to a childhood memory of meeting my parents at four years old, but her words seem relevant in this case too). Why can’t I accept it as part of my story and my reality??
One step at a time. Life is not perfect but living it well is my wish. God doesn’t abandon me when I’m hurting; He draws me closer. I’m thankful God’s grace covers me when I’m feeling this way. All the condemnation, that I’m a bad believer, a sell out, a weak person, is not from God but from the enemy telling lies. What a time to actively listen for God’s affirming words and his promises by reading the Bible. I’ve been reading it a lot lately.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Going through this so early in January is a wake-up call. This year I need and want to intentionally focus on living slow. All this constant internal pressure to do more and stay busy deflates me. I want to find contentment in this space of ours and stop reaching for what I think I “should” do. So cliche but true: quality over quantity.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming “of it.”
If you’ve been reading my blog, you will know that November and December of 2018 was an upheaval of sorts with my 5-year-old daughter getting hospitalized three times in one month. When she gets sick, it affects our whole family taking us time to recover and settle back into our regular life. After the last hospitalization, we spent the last week of December catching up on sleep and physical rest.
January couldn’t come any faster. I wanted to put 2018 behind us and start new: a new year, a new attitude, new experiences, new adventures, new plans. The first two days of this year went well for me. Then, on January 3rd, a rush of sadness and hopelessness swept over me. These feelings surfaced intermittently, but I pushed them away so I could keep moving forward. But at Ellis’ cardiology appointment on January 3rd, a casual conversation with the social worker brought my despair to light. I didn’t know why it was a big deal that we had a rough month; I was doing just fine.
On these clinic visits, parent/s and child meet with various specialists to discuss issues, progress, and questions. Many parents with children who have chronic medical conditions suffer from depression, anxiety, and symptoms of PTSD (hospital experiences become a war zone in the mind). Doctors always ask parents how they are holding up. But this time it was evident to me that I was not okay. I recalled what happened each time, which events led up to it, and how I was coping; having someone ask me with sympathetic eyes just broke me down. I was hurting.
My depression has made another grand entrance in my life. I’ve struggled with it since my twenties, and I notice it reoccurs with major life changes or stressers. It’s hard to talk about depression openly with all the negative stigma attached to it and as a Korean-American. These kinds of things are rarely discussed, acknowledged, or admitted in Asian cultures; there’s lots of shame attached to self and to one’s family. It can be seen as a sign of personal weakness and lack of willpower. Oh well. So be it.
I have depression with propensity for panic breakdowns. I wish I didn’t have it and many times I white knuckle it through those anxiety sweeping moments. But talking about it releases the grip it has on me. Sometimes I get tired of smiling and making it seem like I’m doing fine when really I’m scared and hurting badly inside. This kind of stuff is hard to share: what if my feelings burden someone else?; what if it makes people dislike me?; will they think I’m crazy?; will this label me?; will people think I’m a bad Christian?
I don’t want to be seen as the party pooper who walks around with a dark cloud above my head. It’s not all the time, so I would rather keep it to myself. With depression, it’s hard to articulate those waves of sadness and hopelessness that overpowers the self.
I made a doctor’s appointment the next day. My current medication was not working. I couldn’t let it get worse; I really was holding on by a thread. I’ll see a therapist again. My constant irritability and crying were affecting my family members; it wasn’t only about me anymore. I feel very vulnerable and weird sharing this on my blog. But this blog is about my life and how can I ignore it. Believing in God does not mean that I’m immune from things like this; God is here in the midst and helping me work through it. I cling to Him more in times like this.
I’m learning that it’s better to seek help to get better than to sweep it under the rug. I do the latter a lot and it explodes in various ways. I hope anyone who is depressed and feel hopeless will reach out for help. It doesn’t have to stay this way.
BTW, if my writing sounds defensive or too explanatory, please understand. This is a vulnerable topic for me and something I feel ambivalent about. Thanks readers!!